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Seoul Hospital to Allow Korea`s 1st Euthanasia Case

Posted June. 11, 2009 08:28,   


Yonsei University Severance Hospital in Seoul said yesterday that it will remove life support from a 77-year-old woman in a vegetative state in accordance with a Supreme Court ruling.

The hospital will be the first in Korea to allow euthanasia by taking a vegetative patient off a respirator.

The hospital’s ethics committee in a meeting made the decision, in addition to recognizing the stance of the patient’s family; pledge to do its utmost to respect their will; and have more time to discuss when and who will remove life support.

The committee comprises 23 internal and external advisers.

Severance Hospital President Park Chang-il said, “Though we should comply with the Supreme Court ruling, the patient is not facing impending death. So after conducting several meetings, we made the decision,” adding, “Under the three-stage guideline for death with dignity we came up with, we will make a prudent decision for patients who are in the second stage like the patient in question.”

Patients belonging to the first stage under the hospital’s guidelines announced May 21 include those facing impending death due to irrecoverable diseases such as brain death or impairment of multiple organs. Those in the second stage are vegetative patients who need respirators. Those able to breathe on their own are classified under the third stage.

Life support for patients in the first and second stages will be removed when certain criteria such as self-determination, family consent and the ethics committee’s conditions are met.

The removal of the life-sustaining device is expected two weeks later, though close consultation is need between the hospital and the vegetative patient’s family.

Park said, “The removal will be carried out by her doctor two weeks later under closed doors considering the privacy of the patient and her family,” adding, “When the respirator is removed, the patient will die 20 to 30 minutes later.”

Shin Hyeon-ho, the attorney representing the patient’s family, urged prompt removal of the respirator, saying, “(The patient’s) family is suffering due to the delayed action despite the court ruling.”